The problem with fantasy films sometimes is getting your head around the logic of the fantasy. Howl’s Moving Castle has this problem in spades, which is why it probably works better for a younger audience than an adult one. The adult audience can marvel over the terrific visuals, and (if properly watching the dubbed version) be shocked that Billy Crystal does not spoil the whole thing. An the titular castle is a wonderful thing, all clanking and grinding and WHY HAS HE GOT A MOVING CASTLE??? WHY DOES HE NEED A MOVING CASTLE???

As the tale is initially structured like a pretty simple fairytale (plain, insecure girl gets cursed into an old woman – to turn back the curse she probably needs to accept the beauty within…) it is alarming how quickly the film spirals out of control. Howl is supposed to be a wicked heartless wizard, but never comes across as such. Bad guys shift, and shift back – and in the end you wonder if the tale was just another excuse for Studio Ghibli to draw more grotesque old women. The whole thing ends up so saccharine that the “princes curse” gag at the end is the only release from the sweeping strings and sentimentality. The Westphalian steampunk meets Heidi setting of magic and science is never explained, and nor is the endless war being fought. A strange film, which may have very key points lost in translation twice. Great to look at, but bonkers and maybe (a bit) boring too.